Saturday, July 10, 2010

Introducing Emperor Menelik

I mentioned this one in passing on Round the history blogs 5 - the emperor's electric chair. Just to set the scene, David Wallechinsky et al, The Book of Lists (London: Corgi, 1977) p.463 states:

On August 6, 1890, the first electric chair in history was put into use in the death chamber of Auburn Prison in New York. In distant Abyssinia – now called Ethiopia – Emperor Menelik II (1844-1913) heard about it and decided that this new method of execution should become part of his modernisation plan for his country. Immediately, he put in an order for three electric chairs from the American manufacturer. When the chairs arrived and were unpacked, the emperor was mortified to learn that they wouldn’t work – Abyssinia had no electricity. Determined that his investment would not be completely wasted, Emperor Menelik adopted one of the electric chairs for his imperial throne.

But is it true? In A Fortean in the Archives, Mike Dash shows why not, in so doing introducing to a little of the history of Abyssinia and the Emperor Menelik, one of its most able rulers.

Do read the post and enjoy, as well as the Wikipedia article.   


Legal Eagle said...

Thank you, Jim, that was a fantastically interesting story. It's amazing how things get reported as "truth" once they are in print.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, LE and too true. I am glad you liked Mike's post. Real investigation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jim. I thought this was a most useful comment on the impact of mass media on perceptions of the truth

Jim Belshaw said...

I hadn't thought so much of that aspect, maximos62, but you are right of course.